History of Union Cemetery
History of the Cemetery
Founded in 1857, Union Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Kansas City, MO, and is the final resting place of over 55,000 souls. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the land was originally claimed and plotted out to be the cemetery for both the town of Westport and the town of Kansas (now Kansas City). Many famous and historically significant individuals are buried in the Cemetery, without whom, Kansas City would not be what it is today. Veterans from every war from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War are also buried here, including those who fought for both sides during the Civil War. The Cemetery maintains a strong military identity, honoring those who served our country.
Today, Union Cemetery is located just south of Crown Center and east of the Liberty Memorial, and is open to the public, maintained by both the Kansas City Parks Department and the Union Cemetery Historical Society.
The Union Cemetery Historical Society (UCHS) was organized in 1984 under the guidance of the Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation Department. Its original purpose was to collect data about historic Union Cemetery and to gather biographical information about the people buried here. As a result of those efforts, the UCHS published “Tombstone Inscriptions” in 1986, a hard-bound book that lists many of those who rest in the cemetery.
The UCHS also published a series of 10 pamphlets containing collections of obituaries and biographical sketches gathered mostly from microfilm copies of old newspapers. In some cases these death notices and/or obituaries are the only records we have of individuals buried in Union Cemetery.
The files in the Sexton’s cottage provide access to the cemetery burials. They contain a wealth of genealogical and biographical information collected my members of the UCHS and/or donated by visitors.
The Society’s mission has expanded over the years to include partnering with the KCMO Parks and Recreation Department to preserve and protect Union Cemetery’s grounds as well as its records. To this end the UCHS has overseen tree planting, headstone restoration and re-setting, and fundraising to enhance the beauty and security of the cemetery. The Society also provides guided and self-guided tours of the cemetery as well as speakers for civic and other organizations in the Kansas City area.